The Great Urban Challenge – Cebu

ORGANIZATION NAME: Youth for a Livable Cebu

LOCATION: Cebu, The Philippines

SUMMARY: The Great Urban Challenge is a multi-stakeholder approach to urban revitalisation via city-wide pocket park strategy. It aims to combat urban decay through the collaborative work of the youth, private and public sectors for cities who face economic constraints on building public spaces.

PROBLEM SPACE: “Among the world’s fastest urbanizing countries, the Philippines’s rapid concentration of economic development on the urban areas have massively contributed to urban decay and pollution. Moreover, the lack of properly-thought of urban planning has caused the decline of vibrant public spaces and represents a loss far deeper than simple nostalgia for quiet, comfortable living. It has become a precursor to the loss on the sense of community, increased crime rate, pollution and many more. This phenomenon is observed widely in crowded urban quarters of almost all developing Asian and African cities. Community spaces are suffering under the onslaught of misguided urban growth.

Sustaining Asian and African economy’s high-growth trajectory requires continued investment in smart infrastructure and public community spaces, however most of these governments tend to slack on urban planning. Public spaces investment has not moved at the same pace and it will soon derail the economic benefits.”

SOLUTION: “The Great Urban Challenge has been addressing the concern of urban decay through the formation of pocket art parks, in line with the spirit of harnessing livability, sustainability, volunteerism and creative upcycling via gardening and farming. It understands the idea of engaging the community as the prime mover of creatively transforming their decaying spaces and it further promotes to children and the youth the importance of the natural and built environments through the creative process.

The program is a multi-stakeholder initiative which calls for the local government for a city-wide program among all its districts to build pocket art parks. The initiative is a collaborative work of the community to locate a decaying space and secure permission to build the pocket art park within it. Banking on creativity and innovation, the spaces made use of recycled materials from commercial establishments and households. The spaces were no less than 25 sqm, either public or donated private space, including walls for vertical gardening. The greatest factor of the initiative was the community engagement where it harnesses volunteerism by involving the youth, children and local government employees to design and put together the art park. Each space had to be both attractive, well-appropriation of plan selections, design of energy-efficient use of tree canopies, parmeable landscaping, shady and sunny areas and appropriate maintenance plans.

The strength of the project is bringing together the community to work together and make a bold stand against urban decay. Each community actor plays understands the role in a holistic perspective of systems solutions, simultaneously addressing urban decay, social and environmental concerns.”